As I looked into the crowd, I asked myself, “What is worship?” The church was packed with people of all ages. Families, friends, and neighbors were everywhere. It seemed as though each person had brought a friend with them for the special holiday service. What a blessing to see the church filled!
As I stood on stage and started to sing, I looked out at the crowd and saw the stories on each face. One by one I examined their demeanor and wondered what was going through their minds. With a hand in the air, a middle-aged woman closed her eyes and worshiped her Heavenly Father. She didn’t look to her right or left to see who was watching her, she just sang each word and praised His Name. A few rows over stood a Father overwhelmed with the struggles life had thrown his way. Tears flowed from his eyes as he sang each word. A grandfather wrapped his arms around his grandson as he stood there watching the choir. No words left his mouth, but the worship was in his heart. He prayed for his grandson as the choir sang and hoped that he would find his way back to the loving arms of Christ. A single mom with unwashed hair, spit up on her shirt, and red eyes held tight to her crying child as her 4 year old drew on the hymnal and tugged at her side. At the end of her row stood her wayward teenage daughter texting on her phone. I could see the tiredness in her eyes and the worry that she had for each child but she sang each song and fought back the tears seeking relief from the stress that she calls life.
The Pastor stood alone on the front row with his Bible in his hand. He sang each word and prayed that God would reach the lost souls sitting in each row. He was discouraged, tired, and overwhelmed at times, but he looked to God and received strength that no one else could provide. His faith was in the Lord alone.
Looking further back I noticed a row of teenagers, young and carefree, one was on her phone texting oblivious to her surroundings. She was too busy to take time for God. The other young men had blank stares on their faces, unconcerned about the worship service or the meaning of each song. They didn’t notice what was going on around them. On the end stood a beautiful young lady with a huge smile on her face. She wasn’t singing to the Lord though, instead she was mocking the choir and the songs being sung. Her parents were nowhere to be seen, her friends were entertained by her gestures, and at that moment she was getting the attention she desired. With each word she pointed and laughed at the crowd not realizing the true meaning of worship.
A younger girl stood in front of her with her mother. She looked back several times at the teenagers watching each move. I wondered what she was thinking, how would she act when she grew up? My heart broke wondering what her true relationship with Christ was. Would she ever come to know Him? What was she truly going through in life?
That row had no idea that I saw them or that they were being watched by the younger girl in front of them. They didn’t notice the distraction they had caused, nor did they care. They were only concerned about themselves.
In John 15:18 the Bible says, “If the world hates you, keep in mind they hated Me first.” In my heart, I was upset at the distraction and mockery but God reminded me of who He is. As followers of Christ, we are called to be different. We worship knowing that God hears our songs and praises and loves and cares for us more than we can imagine. Sunday services are treasured times for the believer to recap on the week that has passed, remember the risen Savior, and praise His Holy Name. It is a time of refreshment, revival, and remembrance of all that God has commanded us to do.
Worship is not about you, impressing those around you, or spending time with your church friends. Worship is between you and God. Each person that enters the sanctuary is there for different reasons. Maybe one person is lost searching for answers that the world cannot answer. Another person may only be there to find a boyfriend or get in on the free trips and events. Some people go to church just to appease their parents or friends, while others are there to truly meet with God. The one thing you can’t deny is that each person that is there is loved by God.
That night, as I looked across the crowd, I imagined Jesus Christ standing on the stage.
How would He see each face? What would He do? Would He be offended by their actions?
Over 2000 years ago, Jesus stood in front of a crowd that had seen Him perform miracles and live a blameless life. That same crowd that had seen His life of miracles ended up mocking Him, spitting on Him, and beating Him while yelling “crucify Him.” They sent their Savior to the cross.
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5
He looked to the crowd, with blood in His eyes, and didn’t curse them or strike them down, instead, as He died on the cross he muttered “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they’ve done.” (Luke 23:34)
The Bible says in Galatians 2:20 “It is not I that lives but Christ who lives in me.” If Christ is in you, look through His eyes, forgive the people that are hard to forgive and be an example to those around you.
When you enter a worship service realize that you are worshiping Jesus Christ with every word you sing. You are blessed to be able to stand before the Lord and worship in a public place without persecution or fear. The Savior you worship, the One you praise is Jesus Christ, the Creator of all things, the Beginning and the End, the Reason you are here today.
He died for you, so praise His Name with reverence and let your heart sing to Him. Let your worship be between you and God.
Next time you are in a church service, take a moment to pray before the service begins and ask God to reveal His Light to you. Show Him respect by praising His Name and focusing your attention on Jesus Christ and not those around you. If needed, remove yourself from groups of friends or people that may distract you, turn your phone off, and focus on what worship truly means.
“Sing to the LORD; praise his name. Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.” Psalm 96:2
I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.” Psalm 86:12
“Bless the LORD, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with loving kindness and compassion; Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.” Psalm 103:1-5